BLUE POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There have been new developments in the murder of Long Island native Gabby Petito.
Police say she was killed during a cross country road trip with her fiancé.
The manhunt for Brian Laundrie has centered on a 24,000-acre wilderness park near his home in Florida. Dive teams have joined the search, to comb through swamps teaming with alligators and snakes.
Meanwhile, Petito’s family is waiting for justice, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday.
At the gateway to a grieving community, there was a sign of support.
With Petito’s death ruled a homicide, neighbors are seeking answers.
“We don’t have all the information that the detectives have, but we are all with our mouths open, like how could this even happen?” said Carol Seitz, president of the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce.
“Everybody is sad. It’s kind of like a shattered community,” said Rob Welsh, the chamber’s vice president.
“The anger that is out there, I’m sure, is great, but they are really showing sorrow right now more than anything,” chamber member Seth Needelman added.
Hundreds of ribbons blanket Blue Point and beyond. It was organized by the Johnny Mac Foundation, in memory of a local 9/11 first responder. His widow, Jennifer McNamara, is a close friend of the Petito family.
“We will never forget her and we will always be here for the family,” McNamara said.
“I don’t understand how you’re engaged to someone and you go quiet?” Blue Point resident Anne Marie Swoboda said.
That’s the question being asked around the nation, as search teams continue to comb a Florida preserve for Laundrie. They returned to the vast swamps of the Carlton Reserve on Wednesday with underwater dive teams.
“We are trying to cover every acre in this reserve,” North Port Police Cmdr. Joe Fussell said.
With Petito dead and Laundrie missing, the case is sparking conversations about domestic violence. Witnesses reported seeing Laundrie hit her.
In a newly released statement, one told police, “They were talking aggressively at each other and something seemed off. I heard her say, ‘Why do you have to be so mean?'”
“If you’re the parent of a boy or a teenager, now is the time to start having the conversation about what healthy relationships look like and how you treat a partner in a relationship,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children’s Association.
The break in the case came with the help of public tips, including a video of a van on a desolate road in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, near where Petito’s remains were later found. The family that shot the dashcam video lost a child, themselves.
“I’m really happy that we were able to support, be able to get this for the family and be able to help out with law enforcement, if that’s the case,” Kyle Bethune said. “My wife has been in contact with the parents. They’ve done quite a bit of talking.”
Emotions were captured in a social media post by Petito’s bother: “Gonna miss you till the end. #JusticeForGabby.”
At a sign showing Petito in Blue Point, many are stopping by with prayers and tears. Candles will be lit Friday night in private driveways in her memory.